Clericalism’s Malign Influence

Dominican Timothy Radcliffe
Dominican Timothy Radcliffe

The editors at UK’s independent Catholic paper The Tablet printed an exceptional editorial in their 6 Jan 2010 edition.

In response to the sex abuse scandal that brings such discredit to the Catholic church, some have claimed it was a result of laxity (a covert way of blaming Vatican II), some have said it was the result of homosexuality (overtly blaming gays), some have said it was the fault of Catholic women (sigh).

But Tablet editors make a credible case for it being – in part – a result of clericalism: excessive power in the hands of church clergy which creates an environment of exceptionalism.

Here’s an excerpt below:

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, a former papal diplomat, is emerging as one of the few heroes of this sorry affair. He chose Fr Timothy Radcliffe, former Master of the Dominicans, to grasp the real nettle behind the sex-abuse crisis, which is not about homosexuality but about the pervasive culture of clericalism in the Catholic Church. Invited by Archbishop Martin just before Christmas to address the clergy of Dublin Archdiocese, who were still stunned by the disclosures of the inquiry, Fr Radcliffe went straight to the point. Clericalism put priests on pedestals where they were untouchable (and bishops even more so), from which great height they proceeded to load the people with burdens they could not bear – often to do with sexual morality.

“Unlike the Pharisees,” he said, “the yoke of Jesus is light. If we think about our beloved Church in recent centuries, we do seem to have been more like Pharisees, laying heavy burdens on the shoulders of the people. Often this has been associated with sexual behaviour. We have told families with large numbers of children that no contraception is permitted, and young people who cannot afford to get married that their sexual behaviour must be strictly controlled, and gay people that nothing is permitted – and that they should be ashamed of their sexuality. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of church teaching, this has been experienced by our people as a heavy burden.” He added: “You can imagine the anger of a woman who has had child after child and can cope no more, or a young gay person, when they hear what even a few priests have been up to.”

Read the whole post here.

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